A few years ago an old pal from Stonewall suggested we play Netley Creek.
"Where's that?" I asked.
Skeptical, I agreed to go. I've been back six or seven times. Played it a few days ago. Taking my clubs down to the car in the elevator I ran into some guy with his clubs a few floors below. He says he's playing Quarry Oaks. I say I'm playing Netley Creek.
"Where's that?" he asks.
Netley Creek, just west of Petersfield, is between Highways 8 and 9, about 35 km north of the Perimeter Highway. There's not much to it at first glance. You drive up a dusty gravel road and pull into a dusty parking lot. The fleet of carts parked near the practice green look well used. The clubhouse is not quite as fancy as the one they have at St. Charles and it's apparent that the fairways are not quite as lush as those at Niakwa. But once you get to the first tee you realize this is no North 40 that's been plowed into a so-called golf course.
It was designed by former St. Charles greenskeeper Helmut Kopp with the assistance of owner/operators Bruce and Bonnie Dalman, who have been in on the property since it opened as a nine-holer in 1991. A second nine has been in play since 2001. The holes meander up and down and back and forth over the stone-bottom creek, through thick stands of trees and open, links-style areas bordered by fescue. There are elevation changes of up to 40 feet, almost unheard of in the Interlake. The par-3 ninth drops about 35 feet from tee to green and crosses the creek. On the par-5 10th you need to hit your tee shot through a chute where the fairway drops down to creek level then climbs steeply to the green.
And these are no typical North 40 greens. Each is built according to PGA standards and cost about $30,000 apiece. Bonnie estimates that roughly $5 million has been put into the property.
Sure, it's a little rough around the edges, but it's sweet. Adult greens fees are a very reasonable $29 on weekdays, $37 on weekends. After the game you can hang around on the patio in the Mallard Cafe, listening to birds chirping and squirrels nattering.
Another inviting aspect is the pace of play. Our foursome played in under four hours, with the usual amount of hacking and hunting for balls.
A lot of the time you'll have the place practically to yourself. Because nobody's heard of it.
Cross that Bridge
IT'S about those par-fives. Some people really know how to hold a grudge. This is the 10th anniversary of Bridges Golf Course and a lot of golfers still refuse to play it because they remember those two stupid par-fives from the early years -- the fifth and the 12th -- which were sharp doglegs with about 10 square feet of landing area off the tee. That was with a 7-iron.
Well, it's different now. There's plenty of room to hit woods off the tee. The bush on both holes has been whacked back and the doglegs softened and there's nothing to complain about now, except maybe that infernal wind that on some days can blow you over on the first few holes.
Things will be a little different at Bridges this year, mainly because new head pro Larry Robinson takes over after four years as the head knock at Larters.
"We'll try to provide that little extra," says Robinson, a longtime fixture on the Manitoba golf scene. "We'll give you your money's worth."
Robinson says that once the student workforce becomes available, there will be a bag drop and players can expect cart pickup in the parking lot. Range balls are included in the greens fee, which at $68, are a bit above average.
And Robinson points out that construction on Highway 2 has been completed (a bit of a hassle last year) and the road is smooth as the Bridges greens.
Speaking of par-fives, here's how to birdie the 18th: Thunder a monstrous drive centre-cut (into the wind, mind), sizzle a 100 per cent pure 4-iron pin high left of the hole and calmly two-putt from 20 feet. Or feel free to can the eagle putt. Up to you.
Happy? Club thrower was buoyant
GO right ahead. Wind up and heave that $600 driver into the lake if it's not performing up to its price tag. 'Mark' did just that on the 14th hole at Kingswood last week. All day he'd been pull-hooking his drives and he pull-hooked two more into the pond to the right of the tee. Enraged, he did what most left-handers would and helicoptered his "almost $600 with taxes" TaylorMade R9 into the drink.
"As soon as it left my hands I thought 'Oh God, what have I done? I'm the biggest idiot in the world,' " the club hurler said, adding that he had a sinking feeling when the club splashed into the water.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the green. The club was still bobbing on the surface, face-down, shaft stretching out on top of the water. The TaylorMade R9 floats. Now that's what manufacturers mean by lightweight.
"It was a really windy day and by the time we putted out it had blown to the shore," the reprobate marvelled. "So I went and fished it out. The grip dried really fast and I hit it on the 16th hole. Good as new."
Note: Don't try this with irons. Ha ha. Bet you could see that one coming.